Astro Boy ~ I guess I should have known better with this 2009 updating of the 1960s black and white cartoon beloved from my youth. And it’s a long way past the evolution of the animation too. The story seems wrong. The origin of Astro Boy is fairly intact, but it has the feel and the stench of both A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and Wall-E when neither is really appropriate. It even has stronger ties to Pinocchio. Astro Boy is Astro Boy, let it be what it is, ya know?
The voice of Nicholas Cage as Dr. Tenma screams first and foremost as wrong. Wrong not just because it’s obvious that it’s him and his voice is inappropriate for the part, but because he displays little emotion in a role fraught with tragedy. It’s like he is reading words, not filling an image with his live personality. His ‘performance’ is a travesty.
The film also suffers from what most superhero movies of the past four decades do – the mandatory origin. Why can’t we just accept that this character exists, and then tell a good story? Did Indiana Jones have an origin? Did Jack Ryan? And even though I looove the recent film, did the crew of the Starship Enterprise? The movie is always half over, sometimes more, by the time we see our hero in his final hero form. It annoys me.
And speaking of hero form – why does Astro Boy have to be so politically correct and wear a shirt? Sorry, folks, but product recognition, in this case, character recognition, dictates that the product is recognizable to its fans. Astro Boy is topless. Deal with it. What’s next? A leisure suit for Tarzan? A mask and cape for Jason Bourne? Again, let Astro Boy be Astro Boy.
I waited for the DVD, even though I was very excited when I first heard they were making this. The first preview I saw had Nicholas Cage’s toneless deadpan voice, the shirted Astro Boy and a tender moment with a teenage girl, and it just turned me off. Now don’t get me wrong. This movie is not bad, it’s really quite good, great for the kids, and recommended so – but what it isn’t is a satisfying version of Astro Boy. Rent the DVDs of the original series – even higher recommendation.